Haiku Society of America Haibun Student Haiku Awards for 2008

Haiku Society of America Student Haiku Awards
in Memorial of Nicholas A. Virgilio

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Student Haiku Awards for 2008

Tony Pupello and Pamela Miller Ness

We would like to express our appreciation to all the young poets who submitted to this year’s contest and to the teachers who instructed them in the craft and special characteristics of haiku. It was a privilege to be invited to enter their haiku moments and a pleasure to share their imagery and language. Each of us first read and re-read the 85 submissions numerous times; we then met to discuss our preliminary selections and to undertake the challenging task of selecting six poems (unranked) that we consider most exemplary of fine haiku. And it was a challenging task. Many of the entries were sophisticated in their use of imagery and juxtaposition and were very proficiently crafted. As with very fine haiku and senryu, many were layered and functioned on multiple levels.

Of course, while any finalist must exhibit many of the salient characteristics of haiku, we also looked for poems that surprised or delighted us and expanded our experience through imagery, language, and/or emotional resonance. As R. H. Blyth wrote, “A haiku is the expression of a temporary enlightenment, in which we see into the life of things” (Haiku, volume 1). ~ Tony Pupello and Pamela Miller Ness


winter stars
my father paints over
the old white walls

Asha Bishi
School of the Arts, Age 18, 12th grade, Rochester, NY

The poet subtly creates multiple layers of juxtaposition: interior and exterior; the white of snow, stars, and walls; and a single human being within the vast universe. S/he captures essential elements of classical Japanese haiku, yugen (mystery) and sabi (essential aloneness) and leaves the reader with an unfinished narrative. It is the reader’s job to enter into this powerful and mysterious haiku to complete the story.


autumn night
one brick
darker than the rest

Gracie Elliot
School of the Arts, Age 12, 7th grade, Rochester NY

This poet also sets the scene with a kigo, autumn night, suggesting the various connotations of autumn; a time of change, shorter days, and the onset of cold weather. S/he effectively juxtaposes the vastness of a night sky with a single human-made brick and the darkness of the night with one dark brick. The combined imagery of the night sky and the fact that all the bricks are dark give this poem a deeply melancholy mood. There is no light except for the illumination of the poet’s keen observation and beautifully crafted language, the crispness of the night so carefully reflected in the repetition of t’s and k’s.


first kiss —
the tingle of coke
down her throat

Lauren Fresch
Perkins High School, Age 17, grade 12, Sandusky, OH

This is an excellent example of a contemporary senryu: ingenuous, humorous, and at the same time deeply moving. How perfectly the poet captures first love through such specific sensory imagery, a kiss shared over a coke, both of which tingle in her throat. This poet should also be commended for his/her carefully crafted language: the alliteration of kiss and coke, the onomatopoeic use of kiss and tingle, and the assonance of coke and throat.


scent of spring
my sister paints
the rising sun

Asha Bishi
School of the Arts, Age 18, grade 12, Rochester, NY

This is an excellent example of how what might be a trite kigo expression, “scent of spring,” is used as the springboard to a delightful, lovely and spare moment. A moment of fragrant breezes combined with the lightness and brightness of the rising sun—a moment that may be overdone—is turned into a real moment of spring bursting forth found in the act of “sister painting.” This poem turns on the unselfishness of the author—sharing this moment of creation with her/his sister and sharing sister’s creation with us. And this glorious moment of rebirth and renewal is presented in very simple, understated terms.


silent graveyard
one tombstone
with a crow

Alexa Navarez
School of the Arts, Age 12, grade 7, Rochester, NY

A deeply evocative poem, this piece resonates in the absence of sound. A “silent graveyard” is a commonplace and perhaps overdone image. After all, what is a graveyard if not silent, if not the absence of sound and the activity of life? Yet oft-times we, the living, disturb the graveyard’s silence with our own intrusions. Perhaps uncomfortable we chatter, we joke, we stir. In this piece the poet has succeeded in capturing and reinforcing the disturbing silences. The normally rambunctious and extremely loud crow sits silently in stillness atop a tombstone—forcing us, the readers, to put aside all and become part of that most uncomfortable silence.


light footsteps
across the snow
his alcohol breath

Desire Giddens
School of the Arts, Age 12, grade 7, Rochester, NY

The lightness of the snow, and the heaviness of alcoholism. These are two elements the poet deftly weaves together for us in this finely crafted poem. At first, we are confronted with an air of untruth, anathema in haiku. How could anyone who’s drunk step lightly? Drunks are heavy, have uncontrollably heavy movements, and are not graceful in the least. Aren’t they? Once again, the reader is called, pulled, into the narrative. This is not an attempt at a desktop haiku, an image written because it fits right in the author’s imagination. This is a sad piece about an all-too-common disease. The author is painfully aware of how graceful, how light an alcoholic can appear on the surface. Yes, the drunk passes over almost unnoticed, certainly his light footsteps do not give him away – but his breath does.

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The Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition for Grades 7-12 was founded in 1990 by the Sacred Heart Church in Camden, N.J. It is sponsored and administered by the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association in memory of Nicholas A. Virgilio, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, who died in 1989. See the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association for more about Nick.

The Haiku Society of America cosponsors the contest, provides judges, and publishes the contest results in its journal, Frogpond, and on its Website (www.hsa-haiku.org). Judges' comments are added to the web site following publication in Frogpond.

Winners by Year (with judges' comments):

2024 | 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993 | 1992 | 1991 | 1990 |

For details about the contest rules, read the complete contest submission guidelines.

See the Haiku Society of America publication of the award winning haiku and senryu:

Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition Anthology

edited by Randy M. Brooks
designed by Ignatius Fay

© 2022 HAIKU Society of America


To commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku and Senryu Competition, the executive committee of the Haiku Society of America published this anthology of award-winning haiku and senryu. The student observations, insights, experiences, emotions and insights evident in these haiku and senryu are a wonderful testament to the fresh voices and vivid imagery of young people. We believe the judges’ commentaries add a valuable layer of meaning as we see how leaders, editors, writers and members of the Haiku Society of America carefully consider the significance of each award-winning poem.

This collection celebrates the work of students whose teachers have gone beyond the stereotypical haiku lesson plan emphasizing only one dimension of haiku—the five/seven/five syllable form. In these haiku and senryu the reader will find a wind range of form, carefully constructed arrangement of lines, surprising juxtaposition of images, and fresh sensory perceptions. They will find what we all love in haiku—the human spirit responding to the amazing diversity of experiences and emotions offered to us in our everyday lives.

Come, enjoy these award-winning haiku and senryu full of the wonder, surprise and angst that are the gifts of being young. These young people enjoy being alive and effectively share that joy through their haiku and senryu.

~ Randy M. Brooks, Editor